Every small-group leader has been there: anxiously preparing for the very first group meeting. We’re here to walk with you through this exciting time. These three steps will get you ready for your first meeting:
1. Decide what your group will be about.
Why do you want to start your group? Is there a need you see? Do you want to study a particular book of the Bible? Are you looking to connect with people? In other words: What is the purpose of your group—and why should others join?
There are all sorts of small groups. Some focus on missional living, and others focus on discussing the weekend’s sermon. Some groups focus on short-term studies or felt needs, and others want to form relationships for the long haul that extend outside the group meeting time. There’s value to all of these types of groups. But your group can’t be all of these things. Bring some focus to your group by establishing what it will be about.
In order to establish your group’s purpose, you may need to know ahead of time what you’re studying because it’s central to the group’s purpose. For instance, if you group will primarily be about studying through the Bible and doing an inductive study of James, you need to know that beforehand.
On the other hand, it may be wiser to wait to choose what you’ll study. If your group’s purpose is to connect young parents for support, for example, the study may not be as important. Once you’re together, you could present a couple of options—like discussing the sermons, a parenting study, or even following along with the kids’ ministry lessons. Even if you don’t decide ahead of time exactly what you’ll study, it’s important to come up with a few appropriate options to present to your group once you’re meeting. Not sure what to study? Check out Find the Right Study for Your Group and talk to your small-group pastor, director, or coach for additional ideas.
2. Gather people.
Every church fills groups differently. If your church leaders prefer to have everyone sign up and then assign people to groups, follow their lead. If that’s not the case, however, I highly suggest personally inviting people to your group. Even if your church lists groups in a group guide or on their website, the most effective way to fill a group is by personal invitation. After all, groups are about relationships and connecting, and personal invitations express that value from the very beginning.
Not sure who to invite? Think about your group’s purpose. What kind of person would enjoy your group? Are you looking for people in a certain life stage (such as young families or retired folks)? Or would people looking for in-depth study be a better fit? Perhaps your group would attract new believers. Consider: who do I know who fits in these categories? It’s also a good idea to ask: Who in our church knows people who fit into these categories? For instance, if you’re looking for young parents, talk to the kids’ ministry leader about potential people.
One of the hardest things, especially for introverted leaders, is walking up to new people—or people you don’t know—to ask them to join your group. That feels inauthentic to me, and honestly, that kind of cold invitation won’t work on many. Rather than think first about inviting people to my group, I think, Who do I need to meet and get to know? When I focus on meeting people for the purpose of welcoming them and potentially forming a friendship, it’s easier for me to step outside my comfort zone and say hello.